Our Law Firm Has 24 Years Experience Handling Drunk Driving Accident Cases in Corpus Christi
With its proximity to the ocean, many people in Corpus Christi devote a lot of time and assets into having a good time. Sadly, that often involves the use of alcohol, leading to a fairly high rate of drunken driving accidents. Texas actually leads the nation in number of drunk driving accidents each year.
You have very little chance of understanding the legal issues at hand, let alone, dealing with them if you have no legal experience and get injured in a drunken driving accident. The debate over who should be responsible for drunken driving accidents predates the car and has been raging since the times of horse-drawn carriages, making it often tough to comprehend for novices.
In modern day Corpus Christi, the matter is still muddled and many people whose lives have been injured in drunken driving accidents or the families of those who have been killed by drunk drivers still struggle to safely navigate the laws that govern litigation involving drunken driving accidents. Of course, everyone agrees that drunk drivers should be held accountable for injuries and deaths they cause. The debate is whether or not establishments that sell alcoholic beverages should be held accountable for injuries or deaths caused by drunk drivers whom the bar or restaurant served beyond the point of legal drunkenness.
If you have been injured or a loved one has been killed due to a drunken driver, then the state of Texas permits you seek compensation from the drinking establishments that over-served the drunk driver through a subset of law known as dram shop laws. Not only can innocent drivers, pedestrians and passengers seek compensation with dram shop laws, but any injured drunk driver is free to also purse restitution from the bar or restaurant that served him or her.
However, not everyone injured by a drunk driver can use dram shop laws to pursue compensation from every alcohol-serving business that served a drunk driver. So, how do you know if the unique circumstances of your accident entitle you to seek compensation? Call Grossman Law Offices at 1-855-397-1234 (toll free) and we’ll discuss your situation for free, letting you know where you stand.
Protecting Your Rights
Corpus Christi drunk driving accident attorney Michael Grossman and his associates at Grossman Law Offices have devoted the last 24 years to handling dram shop cases. Through trial and error, we’ve mastered the ability to prevail in dram shop cases, winning compensation for hundreds of injured Texans and learning how to protect your rights in any circumstance. First, we want to help you understand the ins and outs of dram shop laws, so you know how to proceed with your case.
If you’ve been robbed of a loved one your own health due to the negligence of a drunk driver and/or a drinking establishment, we’d like to be able to hit a reset button and undo all the bad. However, life isn’t a video game. In the real world, we can only do everything in our power to make sure the parties who have harmed you and your loved ones are brought to justice and made to pay for what they’ve done.
What is a Dram Shop Case?
In order to force bars, restaurants and other alcohol-selling business to responsibly serve alcohol to their patrons, the state created dram shop laws. However, many people snap to judgment and incorrectly assume that dram shop laws permit the drunk driver shirk liability onto the establishment that sold him or her alcohol; thus, they feel dram shop laws are unfair. After all, shouldn’t adults be responsible for their own actions? That’s a limited view based on prejudice that does not consider all of the facts.
According to the laws in Texas, the limit for legal intoxication is a blood alcohol concentration of .08 percent – a point established scientifically based upon when a person’s abilities to reason and perform normal physical functions becomes impaired. Since they have reached this limit, inebriated people cannot reasonably decide whether or not they can safely drive home. In order to provide for the greater good, the law puts duty of determining whether or not someone is sober enough to drive in the hands of the drinking establishment and its servers, asking them to protect the public safety by serving alcohol responsibly and cutting off service to anyone who has obviously reached the legal limit.
If you still hold the opinion that dram shop laws are unjust, consider the analogy of a dentist who uses anesthetic on a patient before performing oral surgery. While the surgery has ended, the patient still feels the effects of the anesthesia and he’s not capable of safely driving a car. Thus, the dentist must not allow the patient to driver his or herself home. If the patient was to do so and got into a wreck, then the dentist is just as responsible as the driver – possibly more so – and would be responsible for any damages suffered. The same concept holds true for drinking establishments in relation to drunk driving accidents.
While selling alcohol isn’t a crime, the public’s interest still conflicts with that of the drinking establishment. The only way for a bar to increase profits is to sell more drinks, and the only way for bartenders to make more wages is to collect more tips – the more drinks, the more tips. Sadly, this process punishes the public, as increased liquor sales can lead to more drunk drivers and more drunken driving accidents and injuries.
To make the Lone Star State a safer place to drive, the Texas State Legislature has enacted dram shop laws that hold drinking establishments who over-serve their patrons accountable for the wrecks and injuries caused.
Of course, the purpose of Texas’ dram shop laws is not to allow drunk drivers a get out liability free card or bring back the laws of prohibition. Texans are still free to drink as much as they want in the safety of their own homes, and drunk drivers are not freed from liability. Any dram shop action against the drinking establishment is usually coupled with a separate lawsuit against the solvent drunken driver. However, bars and restaurants need to be held accountable for their negligence, as well. Did you know that it’s illegal to even be in public with a BAC exceeding .08 percent? Drinking establishments shouldn’t be serving a person who is obviously intoxicated; even if, that person has a safe ride home.
Elements of a Dram Shop Case
In order to be successful, a dram shop case, just like any other personal injury or wrongful death case must meet the following four conditions:
- Duty – Everyone owes each other the duty to act reasonably to protect each other’s safety, depending upon the particular circumstances of the situation. IN terms of drunk driving, everyone is expected to drive while sober and adhere to the rules of the road, while bars and restaurants must abide by the state’s rules for safely serving alcohol.
- Breach – The required duty in a given situation was ignored. A breach in a drunk driving accident occurs when the driver gets behind the wheel while drunk or a when a drinking establishment continues to serve an obviously drunk patron and then allows him or her to drive.
- Causation – This breach of duty caused an accident and injuries suffered by the victim. Plainly put, the driver’s drunkenness or the over-serving by the bar caused the accident.
- Damages –The injuries caused by the accident led to financial losses for the victim, also know as the plaintiff.
Resolutions for Injuries Suffered in Drunken Driving Accidents
Whether damages are sought from the drunk driver or the drinking establishment that served him or her, the types of compensation pursuable by people injured in drunken driving accidents and the families of those people killed by drunk drivers mirror those for people who are injured or killed in other types of mishaps.
Injured victims of drunk drivers can pursue compensation for:
- Both past and future Medical bills
- Damaged property
- Pain and suffering
- Lost salary due to missed work during time recovery
- Reduced future earning capacity as a result of any long-term injuries
- Loss of companionship
The Wrongful Death Act
Just like a wrongful death claim for a work-related accident or medical malpractice, the surviving loved ones of fatal drunk driving accident victims can seek compensation for both wrongful death damages and survival damages. Wrongful death damages are designed to provide compensation to the grieving family members for the losses they’ve personally suffered. Spouses, children, parents and in some cases siblings all have the right to seek wrongful death damages, which may include compensation for:
- Funeral bills
- Any medical expenses that had already been paid by the deceased before he or she perished
- Loss of monetary support the deceased supplied the family
- Emotional and mental trauma
- Loss of the unique consortium and familial love supplied by the deceased
- Loss of household services
Inherited down the line from spouse to children to parents and finally to siblings, survival damages effectively make the closest living relative of the deceased his or her proxy to seek the damages the victim would have been able to sue for had he or she merely been injured in the accident. Survival damages may include compensation for:
- Medical expenses
- Damaged property
- Lost wages during the time the victim would have need to recover, causing him or her to miss work
- Reduced future earning potential due to possible lifelong debilities
- Pain and suffering the victim felt during the accident
- Mental and emotional trauma the victim would have experienced as a result of rehabilitation
Texas laws don’t consider drunken driving accidents to be the result of a momentary lapse of decision-making or judgment but are in fact caused by a chain of events. The chain begins when the sober driver goes out for the night and continues when he or she imbibes the first alcoholic drink of the night. The series goes on as the driver drinks more and more, becoming intoxicated and finally concludes when the drunk driver tries to go home, only to cause get involved in a wreck, injuring others.
The drinking establishment doesn’t even need to be physically involved in the wreck to be considered a proximate cause of the accident – just like many other types of accident claims. For instance, a pedestrian walks out into the street, causing one car to swerve out of the way and hit another. The pedestrian managed to avoid any physical harm, but he or she was still the proximate cause of the wreck.
In order to hold a drinking establishment liable for negligently over-serving the driver who injured you, you will need to be able to prove that the servers in the bar or restaurant should have spotted the obvious signs of intoxication in the patron. Bars and restaurants know how to protect themselves against these allegations; however, so success depends on the expertise a Corpus Christi drunk driving accident attorney. According to Texas law, drinking establishments must attempt to one of two methods to determine when someone has passed the legal point of intoxication:
- Direct evidence – The process of spotting blatant external physical signs of drunkenness in patrons, including: aggressive behavior, falling down, inability to stay awake, slurred speech, loud talking, staring at lights, or unbalanced standing or walking.
- Circumstantial evidence – Direct evidence can often not help spot intoxicated patrons, for many habitual drinkers can hide the obvious signs of intoxication. Therefore, responsible bars and restaurants must rely on circumstantial evidence. Some pubs rely on different colored glasses that reveal the number of drinks a customer has consumed, and others stack coasters on the bar. The most successful merely turn to assistance from their point-of-sale ordering systems. These systems track every drink dispensed to a given customer, and the server can see how many drinks have been served every time another drink is ordered. A server who has received TABC training and knows the amount of drinks that have been served to a customer in a given amount of time can easily estimate how drunk that patron has become.
You Must Prove Foreseeability
In most cases, when serious injuries and fatalities result from drunken driving accidents, the driver is extremely intoxicated, not mildly so. Thus, most dangerous drunk drivers are noticeable to anyone who takes the time to look. Bars and restaurants only need to expend a minimal amount of effort to greatly limit the damage caused by drunken driving.
According to the laws of any state in the union, intoxication was a cause in fact of any accident involving a drunk driver. However, successful plaintiffs must also prove that wreck was foreseeable by the servers at the drinking establishment due to the obvious intoxication of the drunken patron. After two decades specializing in dram shop cases, our experienced Corpus Christi drunk driving accident attorneys know how to meet this standard.
Fireworks & Foreseeability
Whenever a drunk driver gets behind the wheel, a drunk driving accident is foreseeable but not all drunken wrecks are. The bar has no way of foreseeing if a drunken patron takes a cab home and then drowns in the bathtub. To illustrate, consider an old unsuccessful wrongful death case that ensued after a man walked onto a crowded subway platform, concealing a large amount of fireworks under his coat. The man was bumped while standing on the edge of the platform and the fireworks bounced out of his grasp and onto the electrified third rail, causing them to ignite. The explosion toppled a pole, which landed on a young girl, crushing her to death.
The girl’s parents filed a wrongful death lawsuit against the subway company, claiming that it failed to ensure safety by allowing the platform to become over-crowded. The court ruled that this injury was not foreseeable, so the suit failed. Even though the platform was crowded, the subway company had no foreknowledge that the man had fireworks concealed under his coat. If the girl had been bumped off the platform, instead of the fireworks, then her parents may have had a legitimate lawsuit.
First Party Claims
Dram shop categories can be sub-divided into two types: first party claims in which drunken drivers suffer injuries in wrecks and then seek compensation from the drinking establishment that negligently over-served them and third party claims in which innocent bystanders are injured in drunk driving accidents and then pursue restitution from the bar or restaurant that negligently pumped so much alcohol into the driver.
First party claims are special in that the intoxicated person, or their family in the case of a wrongful death, will actually bring the claim against the licensed provider. Due to jury bias, this is harder to prove. They may see the drunk person as irresponsible and contributing to his own injuries. He must also show he was obviously drunk and that the bar or restaurant knew, or should have known, that he was intoxicated at the time they over-served him.
Any successful first party dram shop claim depends upon the ability to convince the jury that the drinking establishment was more responsible for the accident than the motorist through a process called comparative liability. In the state of Texas, the drinking establishment must be more than 50 percent liable for the accident in order for the plaintiff to succeed with a first party dram shop claim.
Texas Modified Comparative Fault
To understand this principle, consider a car accident that results from two drivers who change into the same lane simultaneously. While both drivers are usually partially at fault one is usually more to blame than other, since one signaled and entered the lane first. In many of these types of accident, comparative liability can be determined easily, since one of the drivers may not have bothered to signal.
Unfortunately, comparative liability usually makes first party dram shop claims challenging to win for the plaintiff, causing many lawyers to avoid these cases altogether. Moreover, very few lawyers know how to prevail with first party dram shop cases. The skilled and seasoned Corpus Christi drunk driving accident attorneys at Grossman Law Offices can prevent our clients from bearing the financial responsibility for their injuries alone because we know how to convince a jury of a drinking establishment’s negligence and have repeatedly won first party dram shop claims involving debatable comparative liability issues.
Third Party Claims
A third party claim ensues when the actions of drunk drivers lead to injuries to innocent bystanders who then pursue compensation from the bar or restaurant that negligently served the driver. To reiterate, dram shop laws are intended to hold all liable parties accountable for their actions and not to let the drunk driver off the hook. Additionally, dram shop laws also make it possible for a plaintiff to obtain compensation when he or she may have otherwise been left empty-handed because drunk drivers sometimes lack the solvency to pay for the harm they cause. Our Corpus Christi drunk driving accident attorneys want you accept why these laws are so important. Sober bartenders and servers must act to protect both the driver and the general public because intoxicated drivers cannot make reasonable decisions for themselves. By reducing the amount of drunk drivers, bars and restaurants can limit the accidents they in turn cause.
Challenge: Exclusive Remedy
In terms of personal injury and wrongful death litigation, drinking establishments benefit from protection not afforded to other types of accidents. A drunken driving victim has only one exclusive remedy against the drinking establishment – a dram shop claim. When someone is killed or injured in another type of accident, the victims and their family may have claims for several forms of negligence.
After severely injuring his hand and arm while working in a meat processing plant for a national steakhouse chain, a man hired our firm. Our client had been trained to use a rigid metal hook to remove skin and fat off the steaks as they moved down the assembly line, despite the fact that the company’s training manual specifically called for a malleable plastic hook to be used for his job. Due to its inflexible structure, the metal hook got jammed in the apparatus, and our client’s hand was mangled beyond recognition. Since the steak processing plant had done several things wrong, we could sue for negligent hiring, training or supervision. Only one remedy is afforded against a negligent drinking establishment: a dram shop claim.
Challenge: Punitive Damages
When other personal injury and wrongful death cases are caused by gross negligence, Texas law calls for punitive damages against those who habitually endanger others with their reckless neglect of safety regulations. However, drinking establishments cannot be charged with gross negligence, so no punitive damages are allowed to punish them.
Challenge: Safe Harbor Defense
Unlike almost any other negligent party in other accident cases, bars and restaurants have a golden parachute to protect against dram shop claims: the Safe Harbor Defense. With very few exceptions, they will try to employ this defense, establishing that it took reasonable measures to serve its patrons by the regulations required in Texas. They don’t even have to prove they were successful, but if they can prove they tried then you cannot win a dram shop lawsuit against that drinking establishment. All a bar or restaurant needs to do to avoid liability using the Safe Harbor Defense is prove that they:
- Had internal protocol mandating that all employees have Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission (TABC) certification.
- Actually make sure that all employees receive this TABC certification and the training that goes along with it dealing with how to spot obvious signs of drunkenness in patrons.
- The bar must have a system in place for dealing with inevitable situations in which someone manages to become drunk despite the drinking establishment’s best efforts. Some people still manage to become intoxicated by drinking before they go out, sneaking flasks into the bar or accepting drinks from others. When someone has become noticeably drunk, the manager usually steps in to cut off service, make sure the intoxicated patrons receives food and a cup of coffee to sober him or her up, and then put him or her in a cab.
Challenge: Liquor Liability vs. Regular Insurance
Many bars choose to only insure themselves against premises liability accidents like burns from spilling hot liquids or slipping and falling because liquor liability insurance is so expensive. In order to protect their assets, insurance companies will deny dram shop claims on premises liability policies. However, an experienced and knowledgeable Corpus Christi drunk driving accident attorney knows how to argue these cases and get compensation for dram shop cases from premises liability policies. At Grossman Law Offices, we have repeatedly won first party dram shop claims by successfully arguing that they fall under bars’ general liability insurance policies. We can do so for you too.
How Grossman Law Offices Wins Cases
Evidence begins to vanish quickly after an accident; thus, to protect your chances of winning your claim, you need a thorough investigation conducted by a skilled professional as soon as possible. That’s why it’s absolutely essential that you find a lawyer with whom you are comfortable immediately. Witnesses can disappear or forget what they saw, videos get erased, and the accident scene physically evolves quickly, especially on a bust roadway.
Over the past two decades, the attorneys at Grossman Law Offices have investigated thousands of accident scenes, so we’ve learned how to find the necessary evidence to prove any dram shop case. Due to the complexity of these cases, an intensive search is necessary to find the proof prove needed to show that a drinking establishment irresponsibly served its patrons.
We begin by interviewing any staff at the bar and finding any other customers and friends of the drunk driver who can testify to the behavior of both the servers at the bar and the drunk driver – how drunk was the driver, and were the servers acting responsibly? We also pull credit card receipts to determine how much alcohol was purchased and in all probability consumed by the drunk driver, but we’ve learned to look even deeper. With the rampant use of cell phones, drunk dialing has become popular, and the people on the other ends of those calls can often attest to signs of drunkenness like slurred speech, loud talking and admittance of intoxication (“I’m drunk!”).
To locate and question everyone the driver may have spoken with on the night in question, we requisition phone records. Furthermore, in some cases people even film video on their smart phones of their friend’s drunken binges. While intended for YouTube, those videos can be evidence to a crafty lawyer crafty. Any evidence we find is carefully documented and locked down, so it will be admissible in court.
In one case, our firm represented a drunk driver in a first party dram shop claim in which the bar defended itself by asserting the driver was not obviously drunk. His credit card receipts proved that he purchased eight shots in two hours, but the bar said he didn’t drink them all and had purchased rounds for other patrons. Our attorneys then pulled his phone records and called and everyone he had phoned that night. One of the people he called that night met him at the bar and video on his cell phone at 2 a.m. that proved he was blatantly drunk. Our Corpus Christi drunk driving accident attorneys at Grossman Law Offices have learned to find evidence where other lawyers don’t even look.
We Rely on Experts
Expert testimony is often required in addition to compelling evidence, so Grossman Law Offices keep a wide array of experts at hand: endocrinologists, life care planners, toxicologists, and safe alcohol sales consultants. One time, we were hired by the family of a man killed in a drunken motorcycle to represent them in a first party dram shop claim. However, the dead man’s BAC was only .11 when he arrived at the hospital, so the bar hid behind the Safe Harbor Defense, asserting that he was not obviously intoxicated.
Most lawyers would have dumped immediately dropped the case after discovering his BAC. However, our attorneys didn’t give up and learned paramedics had administered extensive blood transfusions on the way to the hospital prior to his BAC test. Our endocrinologist took into account the amount of transfusions he received and estimated that the man’s actual BAC was in fact .19 at the time of the fatal wreck, making his level of intoxication obvious to any responsible server. Our diligence tore the golden parachute to shreds.
Proving that the drinking establishment negligently served alcohol isn’t enough to get the compensation you deserve, you must also prove the monetary value of the harm that has been done to you. Sure, medical bills can verify some damages, but that’s only tip of the iceberg of the compensation you deserve. We bring in medical experts to attest to future problems, complications and treatment, psychologists to verify the value of emotional distress from pain and suffering and economists to prove the value of lost future earnings in cases involving lifelong disabilities, as well as, fatalities.
We Can Help You
For the past 24 years, the Corpus Christi drunk driving accident attorneys at Grossman Law Offices have devoted our lives to resolving both first and third party dram shop claims. Hundreds of injured and grieving Texans have secured millions and millions of dollars in damages as a result of our efforts. If you have lost a loved one or suffered an injury due to drunk driving and/or negligent serving by a drinking establishment, then we can you secure the compensation you deserve for the harm that has been done to you – even in many cases when you were the drunk driver who caused the accident. For a free consultation to discuss the details of your case, learn about legal concepts you don’t understand and find out about how we can help, call us now at 1-855-397-1234 (toll free). You must act immediately or risk doing irreparable harm to your case.